Many people have asked us about Brexit and we’ve kept our mouths shut until now. We’ve tried to make this understandable to our American family and friend readers, as well as talk about how this will affect Mallorca (which sees 3.7 million British tourists every year).
A note: parliament is the building which houses two, well, houses. We’re talking about the House of the Commons but we’re going to say parliament because it is easier to say.
In our last post we talked about what the EU is, how the EU works with other countries, and what promises and claims were made to inspire Brexit voting.
On June 23rd 2016 voters decided to leave. The next day their Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced he would resign in October.
This is worth talking about because the current Prime Minister, Theresa May, may resign or be kicked out soon. So a quick review.
If a prime minister dies, resigns or is kicked out how do they pick a new person?
UK citizens vote for a new parliament every 6 years. The party which wins the most seats in this election will appoint their own Prime Minister from their party (and the Queen gives her blessing). The parties all have different processes for selecting their own prime ministers but we’re going to talk about the Conservative party (since that is who is and was in majority).
5 members volunteered for the position of Prime Minister. The Conservative party held an election (just between themselves) to decide two names to put on the ballot. This ballot would’ve been sent out to members of the public who are registered Conservative members. They didn’t get that far because the other candidates withdrew. So Theresa May won by default.
So the country voted to leave, the prime minister announced he would resign. Then a Prime Minister who wasn’t elected came to power.
May took office in July. When she created her cabinet she invented a new position “Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union” aka the Brexit Secretary.
For Brexit to be all said and done
- The UK (Brexit Secretary) and EU negotiators would have to negotiate all the terms. (Finished December 8th, 2017)
- Theresa May’s cabinet would have to approve of the negotiations (Finished November 14, 2018)
- The EU in full would decide if they approved of the negotiations (Finished November 24th, 2018)
- The Parliament would have to officially vote on it. (began January 2019)
Step 1: Negotiations
In October of 2016 they picked their official exit date. Remember Article 50 says you have to withdraw within 2 years of the date you notify them and they picked March 29, 2017 (they must leave by March 29, 2019).
So official Brexit negotiations lasted from March to November. In the middle of this, in July, the Brexit Secretary actually resigned and a new one was appointed to continue negotiating.
What did they talk about?
The negotiations needed to cover:
- How EU citizens would be treated in the UK (work, study, taxes, pensions, immigration, visas, etc)
- How UK citizens would be treated in the EU
- Trade agreements
- “Divorce” settlement money (divorce isn’t free)
What did the UK want?
We talked about Norway, Iceland, Turkey, and the Ukraine in the last post. They all have a good relationship with the EU without being in the EU. So people said – just copy what they’re doing. But the UK doesn’t want this.
What about the Economic Area? Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein are doing fine outside the EU but are part of the European Economic Area. No. The UK doesn’t want others to live/work/study in their country, the trade regulations or financial contributions. So they want out of the EEA.
Switzerland isn’t in the EEA but has deals for trade but the UK doesn’t want to be told how to regulate their trade. So they won’t do this, either.
Ukraine gets trade and Europol benefits in exchange for letting the European Court of Justice have jurisdiction. Nope, the UK doesn’t want the court of justice, and they still want to regulate their own trade.
They looked at Canada who has a really nice deal with the EU. People just couldn’t decide on this agreement in time. It also took Canada and the EU over 5 years to hammer out the details. The UK just didn’t (and now really doesn’t) have the time to do this.
What did they decide? (Did they get what they wanted?)
They decided (in the negotiation that still hasn’t been approved by parliament) on a transitional period which would last until December 31st 2020. EU laws will continue to apply to the UK and the UK will continue to pay into the EU’s budget (again this is absolutely not what was supposed to happen). However, the UK refuses to vote in the upcoming EU elections and wants nothing to do with the EU government during the transitional period. This sounds worse to me (taxation without representation) – as they’re still paying the EU taxes but won’t even be on the committee to decide what they’re spent on.
Mostly because of Ireland, the UK will stay a member of the Europe Economic Area, single market, and the customs union. Basically this is all the trade stuff the UK wanted nothing to do with – but because negotiations were nearly a year long everyone said “uhh, let’s put this on the table until December 31st with a clause that says we can extend that indefinitely.”
In short, nothing concrete was decided and they got nothing like what they wanted -and there is an agreement to make discussions indefinite.
This is all great but we haven’t even talked about the worst part.
The worst part: Ireland
If you didn’t know, there are 2 Irelands. Northern Ireland which is part of the UK (think Belfast) and the Republic of Ireland (think Dublin) which is its own country and is an EU member. They used to have “the troubles” which involved car bombings, the IRA, and a lot of violence.
All this bombing stopped when both sides made the Good Friday agreement. This said there can never be a border between them, people get dual passport citizenship, and Northern Ireland has the right to leave the UK if they ever want to become part of Ireland.
Well… if you look at the map I think you can see where this problem is going to be. If Ireland (republic) an EU member stays part of the EU, and its northern neighbor stops being part of the EU what happens? A border has to happen and passport checks have to happen. This was one of the most important parts of the Good Friday agreement – no border. But you can’t exactly Brexit when a part of your country is touching an EU member. So they have to draw a line somewhere.
Do they draw a line around Northern Ireland (this would create a hard border). Or do they draw a line around themselves (essentially abandoning Northern Ireland). Their solution is to keep saying “we don’t know what we want, we’ll talk about it later” (which is why everything is so open).
So the UK discussed making an electronic border with facial recognition cameras and distance scanners.
They discussed letting Northern Ireland be part of Ireland. Nope, the UK doesn’t want to lose part of their country.
Then they said let’s let Northern Ireland be pseudo-part of the EU and the UK can be fully out. No, because you would have to do customs from Northern Ireland to the UK (even though they are the same country). That would be like having passport checks just to go from Colorado to Arizona.
This isn’t just a problem because of the Good Friday agreement. It’s not fair to the EU. If there isn’t some kind of border crossing or checks then a criminal could just walk across the Irish border and never have their passport checked as they gallivanted across the rest of the 27 EU countries.
Step 2&3: Her cabinet approves it/EU approves it
This deal they negotiated, called “May’s Deal” is 585 pages long. Only 7 pages cover how the EU and the UK will work together after Brexit. Basically, the wording is vague and nobody likes it.
But they can’t talk about it anymore because in November 2018, with the European Union said they were totally done negotiating the details/it was basically approved on their end.
In November 2018 May presented it to her cabinet and they disliked it but it passed. Her 2nd Brexit Secretary then resigned and a new one was nominated. The next month her own party held a vote of no confidence (to kick her out). She won (so she could stay).
Step 3: Parliament Approves
639 people can vote in their Parliament but they need only 320 votes to pass. May’s party only has 318 seats in parliament. So even if all of them voted for it, they couldn’t pass it. But time was running out so they put it to parliament who voted it down by 230 votes. This is the largest vote against something in their history. So not only did people dislike it, they hated it.
On January 16 (the next day) they tried another vote of no confidence (this time on a parliamentary level). Again, she survived.
March 2019- The Clock is Ticking
It’s important to understand that if the UK and the EU cannot work out a deal, then the UK will leave with “No Deal”. No Deal Brexit means March 29th comes and they are kicked to the curb without any agreements or plans. (Some people think people could die from lack of food or medicine if this were to happen.)
They sent another new Brexit Secretary to go talk to the EU (who already said stop talking to us about this). He wanted to get concrete wording on that whole “2020 but maybe later” thing to make parliament feel better. They made a couple changes that said “we’ll talk about it faster” but it was still vague.
On March 12th they held a “second meaningful vote” on her deal (which had the additional wording about talking faster). May was basically saying “We leave the EU in 17 days! I bet you’ll vote for it now that the due date is so near!” But they didn’t, and voted it down by 149 votes. The fourth-worst defeat. They hate it less but they still hate it.
Because they voted it down they held a vote the next day to decide if they could leave without a deal. Obviously no one wants this to happen so they voted that they wouldn’t allow themselves to exit with “No Deal.”
So they had yet another vote the next day, March 14th, to see if they would ask for an extension on Article 50. This meant almost nothing because it is up to the EU if they can have an extension or not. They were essentially asking themselves if they all agreed that it was the next best thing to do. They also tried really hard to make things easier and proposed:
- Amendment H – Should the voters be given a second chance to vote on Brexit. Defeated.
- Amendment I – Let other parties take control. So far this has been Theresa May and her Conservative party leading the charge. They wanted to give it to everyone (all parties). Defeated.
- Amendment E – “we’ve already rejected it twice! Stop giving it back to us to look at and let us have more time to talk about it” Defeated.– there’s just no time.
- Amendment J – Withdrawn – no one ever voted on it. BUT it pointed out a parliament rule “Erskine May”which says you cannot bring the same thing forward again during the same session if it has already been voted on it. So they could not have a third vote.
This rule nixed any further voting on that deal.
So May has to make some serious changes to her deal for it to be allowed to be voted on again.
5 Days Left
There have been absolutely massive protests and petitions to try to stop Brexit at the last second. People have been attacked and there have been death threats. It’s messy.
They asked for an extension to June 30th because that’s when EU voting for representatives will be held and they don’t want an EU representative. The EU said “well we’ll extend it if you can tell us what you’re going to do” but she couldn’t answer that.
The EU then talked amongst themselves to decide whether or not to give them more time. And they decided on the weirdest thing:
If May gets a new deal successfully voted on by Parliament she can have an extension until May 22 (Elections for the EU start on May 23)
If she can’t get it through (and because of “Erskine May” she can only have one more vote anyway) they can only have an extension until April 12. In fact, just as we were about to post this, we learned that Theresa May has offered her resignation in return for parliament’s approval of her new plan.
I think this sounds backwards. If they don’t have a deal in place they need more time to figure it out. But, no, if they do have a deal in place they can have more time.